Elder abuse awareness campaign garners support from community

Christine Smyth

Queensland Law Society’s recent awareness campaign highlighting the abuse of our elderly has seen an increase of community understanding and led to more victims seeking support.

The trial campaign was launched on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as a joint initiative between QLS and the Australian Medical Association Queensland. The trial was spread across GP clinics in north Brisbane with the goal of providing resources and directing victims towards support services.

“This trial was launched across 321 GP clinics in the North Brisbane PHN area, providing doctors with resources to assist in identifying the symptoms of elder abuse and pointing those suffering to support services,” QLS president Christine Smyth said.

The campaign was championed by local and state media, with many mentions across platforms, as well as significant engagement on the Society’s social media channels.

“The support from the media, community members and our profession was appreciated, with such an important issue requiring the hands of many to create real awareness leading to change,” Ms Smyth said.

“I also thank the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Helpline who were the touchpoint for calls.

“Their staff do a wonderful job of guiding callers to the right sources for assistance, often with very small numbers and resources.

“Staff at the Society also received calls requesting advice on finding a solicitor who could assist in matters such as financial elder abuse.

“Anecdotally, we found that once a caller explained their situation, it became apparent that they may be suffering abuse.

“Those sharing their experiences then often prompted other elderly in their communities to realise that they too were suffering from elder abuse.”

The Helpline has reported an increase in calls since the campaign started and Ms Smyth believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Often the signs of elder abuse are subtle and not readily evident,” she said.

“This makes it very difficult to identify and action, but the consequences are devastating.

“There are few real statistics on this issue, and in most cases, the victim will not report due to fear of retribution or even confusion about what is occurring.

“We will continue to give a voice to the voiceless and empower those suffering.”

Ms Smyth urges community members to take note of the elderly in their lives during Seniors Week (Saturday 19-26 August), and look out for the signs of elder abuse.

“We are surrounded by many elderly in our local communities, whether at work, at home or even in our local shopping centres,” she said.

“If you see something out of the ordinary, ask that person when they are alone if they are ok.

“You do not need to get involved personally, but you can direct them to their local GP for help or have them phone the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Helpline on 1300 651 192.

“We must protect the vulnerable in our communities, and support our elderly as they once supported us.”


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